The Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture has selected Barclay & Crousse Architecture’s Edificio E as the winner of the biennial Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP). The accolade, which recognizes architectural excellence in the Americas, will award the project’s designers Sandra Barclay and Jean Pierre Crousse $50,000 in funding towards the development of a publication that touches on the theme of “rethinking the metropolis.” Barclay and Crousse will also be given the MCHAP Chair at the college.

“Mies’s Crown Hall represents a fundamental enrichment in the understanding of how architects enclose and define space,” said MCHAP Director Dirk Denison. “I believe Edificio E will become a similar point of reference, but here it is the space between that enriches the collective architectural language.”

Located in a forest more than 600 miles northwest of Lima, Edificio E is an academic building at the University of Piura, which serves a large number of rural students. Eleven wood-clad volumes, connected by semi-exterior pathways, contain a series of lecture halls and administrative offices, with public spaces interspersed throughout to encourage casual encounters among students.

“The ambiguous, shaded exterior spaces sheltered by the buildings that form the whole were created to provide a place for informal learning and for life in the broadest sense,” the architects said in a statement. “It’s been immensely rewarding to see how students and professors occupy the structure, and to see how it’s created a new centrality on campus, where people stay independently of having classes.”

In July, a jury pared down a list of more than 175 projects to six finalists: Edificio E; Freelon Adjaye Bond and SmithGroupJJR’s Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.; Edwin Chan’s True North housing development in Detroit; PRODUCTORA and Isaac Broid’s Teopanzolco Cultural Center in Cuernavaca, Mexico; Andrade Morettin Arquitetos Associados’ IMS Paulista, a cultural institution in São Paulo; and Paulo Mendes da Rocha and MMBB Arquitetos’ SESC 24 de Maio, a leisure, sports, and medical facility. Barclay & Crousse’s project stood out in particular for its “deceptive simplicity” and “unexpected complexity,” said jury chair Ricky Burdett.

“Like a vernacular village of narrow streets and open spaces—so typical of organic urban models across Latin America—the building compresses the collective human experience,” Burdett said. “A sequence of interconnected ramps, corridors, balconies, and open spaces are hewn out of the orthogonal concrete mass, like crevices and ravines formed in mountain ranges over geological time.” 

Previous winners of the prize include Herzog de Meuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami, Álvaro Siza’s Iberê Carmago Foundation in Brazil and SANAA’s Grace Farms in Connecticut.